The House Committee on Health and Insurance this week advanced two bills aimed at preventing more Coloradans from developing an opioid use disorder and to reduce the rate of opioid overdose deaths.
“We can lower the rate of opioid overdose deaths, slow the spread of communicable diseases and prevent more Coloradans from developing a substance use disorder, but we have to adopt best practices for prevention and provide better access to alternative pain therapies,” said Rep. Kennedy, D-Lakewood, in a Colorado House Democrats-issued news release.
“These bills will help keep Coloradans from developing a substance misuse disorder or dying of an overdose,” said Rep. Herod, D-Denver. “Across our state, communities are being devastated by substance misuse disorder, and we need to act now to turn the tide in this deadly crisis. These bills will improve prevention efforts and help keep more Coloradans alive.”
HB20-1085, sponsored by Representatives Chris Kennedy and Leslie Herod, focuses on prevention efforts.
“The bill would encourage best practices to prevent opioid misuse, increase access to alternatives to opioids for pain relief, expand continuing education for opioid prescribers and support the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to work with community partners such as local public health agencies in a variety of prevention efforts,” the release said. “It would also establish screening and brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) as a health care standard.”
The bill also requires health plans to cover a minimum number of physical therapy, occupational therapy and acupuncture visits per year as alternative pain treatment and would require insurance companies to make opioid alternatives available at the lowest cost-sharing tier applicable. HB20-1085 passed the committee 10-0.
HB20-1065 is also sponsored by Representatives Kennedy and Herod and “aims to lower the rate of opioid overdoses and related deaths and better prevent the spread of communicable diseases that can be associated with the injection of illicit opioids,” the release said. “It would protect people who act in good faith to respond to overdoses by administering an opiate antagonist, such as naloxone, that has expired.”
The bill would also require insurance plans to reimburse hospitals that provide opiate antagonists to counteract overdoses that often occur upon discharge. To help prevent communicable diseases, the bill would allow pharmacists to provide clean syringes and removes a regulatory barrier to operating syringe exchange programs. HB20-1065 passed the committee 6-4.
According to the release, the state recorded 543 opioid overdose deaths in 2018. Data tracking the number of pills dispensed per person shows that some Colorado counties have rates that are higher or at the same level as some of the hardest-hit states, such as West Virginia and Kentucky. A 2018 estimate from the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that the opioid epidemic has cost the US $2.5 trillion from 2015 to 2018.